SIX TIPS FOR LIBERTARIAN STUDENT ACTIVISTS
1.Sign Ups Aren’t Everything
After all, it’s how you easily reach out to students on your campus and get contacts. But here’s the sad reality: most students will ignore you after they’ve signed your clipboard. You will only be a bother to them if you continue to try and contact them to come to your meetings or events. Do you want to get people involved? Show them that you’re an active student group that gets stuff done. People are more likely to get interested in your group if they’ve attended a great event you put on or saw that your group went on awesome trips to DC or elsewhere for liberty conferences. Being a great and active student group > getting sign ups.
2.Your Libertarianism Is Important, But It’s Not Everything You Are
If there is one point that I think you should absolutely take away from this article, then let it be this one: don’t be “that libertarian kid” on your campus. Your activism is very important, but don’t let it run your life or your personality! Don’t turn every conversation into a lesson on economics. Be outgoing and friendly with people. Don’t just treat others like they’re your next target to influence or recruit into your club. Don’t be a libertarian who happens to be a cool person. Be a cool person who happens to be a libertarian. Most of the people in my student group are there because they knew me as a friend before anything, and they stay because they enjoy the activism and appreciate the ideas. The unfortunate reality is that the majority of students on your campus will not originally be drawn to the ideas, so you draw them in by simply being an approachable individual to begin with.
3.Be Active On Your Campus, Not Just In Your Student Group
This point is somewhat related to the one before it, so part of being a diverse person is being involved in things outside of your student group. Join a fraternity/sorority, play music, join the gaming club, run for your student government, or become an RA. Not only is this a way to put yourself out there and make yourself known and respected on campus, but it makes your college experience more enjoyable!
Another immensely important point is to be humble. Most (if not all) libertarians students are mainly self-taught in our ideas. We’re the ones who voluntarily choose to read Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, and Bastiat. Our high school teachers usually aren’t the ones who made us watch Ron Paul lectures on YouTube. What this means is that libertarian students are (usually) of a different, for lack of a better term, breed. We have a tendency to know things on economics, philosophy, and politics that our peers don’t know. We’ve read 300+ page long economics treatises by the age of 17. With this being the case, it’s easy for us to have a holier than thou attitude that is all too common in the movement. Here’s the thing: you know way less than you think you know. If you haven’t learned that from college yet, then you have been trapping yourself in an illusionary cave. Recognize that you are still a student. You are no Hayek. You’re still learning. Your progressive professor that tells you that the Austrian Business Cycle Theory is wrong still knows more about economics than you probably do. Don’t act like you know everything, and not only will you avoid lying to yourself, but people will respect you and your ideas more.
5.Be Open Minded In Class
Related to the previous point, remember that you are a student. You may think you know everything there is to know about economics since you read Human Action, but you are sorely wrong. As a libertarian student, it’s easy to be trapped in an echo chamber. I know because I’ve been there. Before college, I had never read, or even cared to read, Robert Reich, to learn about Rawlsian “Justice as Fairness,” or to look into Marxian class theory. Avoid thinking that you have everything figured out. Your ideas are still changing. Do you think Rothbard believed in the same ideas all throughout his intellectual career? The point is that you should really be open to hearing out your opponents. Not only will this make you reconsider your own ideas, but it’ll actually make you better equipped to challenge your intellectual adversaries. If you can think like Marx, it makes it that much easier to critique him. On a related note, your professors, who most likely aren’t libertarians, are not out to get you. They want what’s in your best interest as a student trying to seek truth. Communicate with them. Discuss ideas with them. Don’t be a nuisance in class because you think your professors are trying to indoctrinate you, because they really aren’t. Students at Evergreen State University are no more a victim of biased schooling than are students at Hillsdale College. No matter the opinions of your professors, just take in their ideas and teachings with an open mind, question your own ideas, and you will benefit greatly from your educational experience.
6.Be On Good Terms With The Administration
This may be a hard one for some of my peers, but this will really make your life so much easier. Don’t be a bother to your school administration. Know the rules and procedures (this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow them, just know them). Get to know your director of student life. The better the terms are with your administration, the more likely the school will be supportive of your efforts as an activist, no matter how much or little they actually agree with your ideas.